Course Description

Heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, Lexapro®, tranquilizers, LSD, antipsychotics: all of these are psychoactive drugs. Yet some are illegal, some legal, some toxic, some medicinal. What do they really do, and how do we decide which are safe and which are dangerous?

In this course you will learn about the biological actions of the important psychoactive drugs currently in use around the world. We will explore both illegal drugs, from "magic" mushrooms to marijuana to methamphetamine, and prescription medicines like lithium, Lexapro®, and Adderall®. We will explore the relationship between drug use and mental illness, and consider the proposition that drug addiction is a medical illness. Discussions, brief lectures, readings, analysis of web-based and scientific papers, and our own writings will help us understand the scientific bases upon which psychoactive drugs are evaluated. With our primary emphasis on the biological actions of these drugs on the brain and body, we will learn some methods for evaluating scientific knowledge, about animal models of disease and drug use, and the criteria for performing and interpreting drug studies on human subjects. You will leave this course with an increased awareness of psychoactive drugs in all their aspects, and with a sharpened ability to filter, analyze, and understand the information and misinformation that surrounds these agents.

GenEd Information: Not currently approved for IU Bloomington GenEd. See the GenEd Website for more information.


IFS course instructor photo

Course Instructor: Bruce Martin

Bruce Martin, PhD, is Professor of Physiology in the Medical Sciences Program at IU Bloomington, which is one of the 9 branches of the IU School of Medicine. He has taught IFS since 2000, and currently teaches medical and undergraduate students about a variety of aspects of medical science.

The Science of Psychoactive Drugs

The Science of Psychoactive Drugs: Courses: Intensive Freshman Seminars: Indiana University Bloomington